The quality of your sleep has an enormous impact on well-being (both physically and psychologically), and is partly affected by your bedtime routine.
Most people recognize the need for bedtime routines in children, but so often forget to honor the need for these routines as adults. Yet poor sleep affects us in the just the same way as it affects children: we feel irritable, stressed and can have difficulty concentrating during the day. The overall result is low mood and lowered productivity.
A good bedtime routine can result in significant reductions in problematic sleep.
Here are five tips for creating a mindful sleep routine:
- Make “power down” time a priority.
Shut down those activities that stimulate your mind, such as work, emails, internet browsing and even watching TV. The general guideline is to try to avoid backlit devices at night (such as screens) because these are stimulating to the eyes and brain, sending the message that it’s daytime and therefore awake time. Try reading a book, taking a bath, listening to music or practicing some gentle yoga or meditation. Develop rituals that work for you.
- Try a brain dump if your mind is running on overdrive.
Dump it all out. Write some lists, or simply use the “worry diary” technique and jot down all of the things you’re stressing about. Try not to do this right before bed, but rather before your “power down” time. This helps your mind let these things go. Once they’re written down, you can relax; there’s no chance you’ll forget them.
- Eat, drink and move mindfully.
Caffeine isn’t “bad,” but it is a stimulant and should be used mindfully. If you’re experiencing sleeping problems, cutting back on caffeine (particularly after midday) is generally a good idea. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating a particularly heavy meal late in the evening — you want to go to bed satiated but not overly full. Some medications and supplements can also affect sleep so it’s best to get educated about what you’re taking. Remember that exercise is one of your best friends when it comes to managing overall stress levels. However, intense exercise late at night isn’t recommended for anyone experiencing sleeping problems. Experiment with your training routine and discover what works best for you. Perhaps your high-intensity training is best in the morning, leaving the evenings for yoga.
- Create the right environment for sleep.
This generally means ensuring your bedroom is sufficiently dark enough, quiet enough and well ventilated to allow for good sleep. Take the time to study what works best for you in terms of temperature, light and noise. Less obviously, you might discover that your stress levels increase according to how much mess is in your personal space. These tricks work because they provide the foundation for a relaxed body, which is a precondition for a relaxed mind.
- Monitor your sleep, and keep a sleep schedule.
Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. If you’re experiencing sleeping difficulties it’s also a good idea to keep a record of exactly when you do get to bed, how often (and for how long) you wake during the night and what time you get up. This information will be helpful for your clinician if you decide to visit your GP or a psychologist for help with sleeping.